Do not deposit in summer, stay alert

WHO Special Envoy for Covid-19, David Nabarro, says TOI tests are key to fighting but adds that India is doing the right thing by using the lockout period to improve its ability to break the chain of . Excerpts

Q: Do you think the beginning of summer will delay the spread of the new coronavirus in India?

A: I hope so. This is a new virus. She is only 4 months old and we are learning on the go. And there has been transmission in countries like Singapore . We do not believe that there is an absolute reduction in transmission intensity. The Indian heat is dry. It may be that the transmission intensity is lower and the interruption is easier. But we cannot assume that it will be easier for India. We have to make sure that the alert state for Covid-19 is established throughout the country during this period of blockade.

Q: India is testing very few people compared to South Korea and . This helps?

A: The WHO point is that this is a fight against a virus and it is quite difficult to fight an invisible enemy ... if you have no evidence to tell you who is infected. And so the WHO says testing is a key part of the strategy to fight Covid-19. But if you have to increase the evidence, there are three important things. First is the test ... for viruses and not antibodies. The second is the protocol of how the tests will be used. And then you need to have people ready to administer the tests safely for themselves and for the people who are going to be tested. The point is, it could easily attract people to a testing center and they could infect workers and each other. Basically we are saying that the system is correct. And I think the strategy is correct. That the shutdown period is being used to implement everything necessary, including local capacity building, to ensure that people with symptoms can be tested. This is not a simple process given the size of India and the complexities involved.

Q: India says sporadic cases of Covid-infected don't know how it did it, but not enough to be described as a community spread. Correct evaluation?

A: It is difficult to say that, but as someone who has done this type of work before, the most important thing is to detect these outbreaks early ... when you have chains of transmission that you can identify. From what I hear, there has been early work in India to identify these chains of transmission. India is at an important cusp of being able to find chains of transmission before widespread community spread occurs. Preventing widespread community transmission and suppressing outbreaks as they begin, through high alertness, is the way to do it. India seems to have learned from European countries and I am pleased that it is giving it the highest priority

Q: How long before India can think in terms of easing the blockade?

A: I saw the pictures (of people coming home). I don't know, but I will say the following. Closing early when you only have a few cases and using it to be Covid-ready across the country is a very skillful strategy. If you can do it right, you will shorten the lockout period. If you close late and do not have the ability to interrupt the transmission, the lock will continue longer. I hope this strategy will lead to the shortest possible block. Protecting vulnerable people is a very important part of blockade management and I am seeing signs that this thinking is present in the minds of stakeholders. I hope that the solidarity of the Indians I know exists will help India demonstrate the ability to withstand large outbreaks and damage that could have occurred if things had been done slowly.

Q: How do you see the criticism that the WHO has faced for allegedly giving China a long rope?

A: I am an independent person who is asked to act as envoy. I prefer to look forward. There are many people who look back, but I focus on people's health, the economy and society.